After I had my first child, I stayed in the working world, sort of. I increasingly started to work from home to avoid high daycare costs and frankly, because it was easier than getting myself and a baby ready to go every morning. As my brood grew to the grand total of four (I say grand total because that is IT), working from home became full-time and permanent. I left the important job I loved so much and struck out on my own – able to set my own hours and fit in work time between child rearing and the seemingly endless string of disasters that occur on a daily basis.
I know it’s a blessing that I get to stay home with my children and that long after these daily disasters are distant memories, I’ll always have these cherished years. Still. There are days that I miss the little things about working outside the home. Getting ready in the morning, my quiet commute, my own desk (uncluttered with Legos and princess paraphernalia), a name plate and of course, the workplace socialization. Maybe I’ll get all that back one day, but for now, I am embracing my dual role of “working stay-at-home mom.”
There are a few things that I try to do to keep a semblance of my working identity. These things keep me connected to my industry and let me escape for a quick breather when mommying gets overwhelming. I advise all moms – stay at home, working, or both – to follow these tips in order to stay relevant in your career choice during those years that it has to take the back burner.
- Network. The Internet is a wondrous machine. Use it. Facebook is an “okay” spot to tout your professionalism, but let’s face it – it is better designed for those adorable kid pics to share with family and friends. A better spot to professionally network is Twitter, and LinkedIn is even better than that. You can create accounts that are only designed for the industries you want to promote and keep all personal information out – without feeling too guilty.
- Keep learning. Find local events in your industry to attend, or take a few days each year to attend a conference. Even if you are paying for these outings from your own pocket, consider it an investment in your long-term education. If you work from home and have decided to take on a few employees, sign up for a small business accounting course at the community college. Heck, earn an entire degree if you feel up to it. If you have any intention of returning to the working world on a full-time, out-of-the-home basis again, nurture those dreams.
- Do something relevant. If you are a writer, start your own blog. If you are an accountant, take on a few clients every tax season. Volunteer your talents at your kids’ school, your church or another local organization. Doing something – anything – in your field of expertise will remind you that before you were a kick-ass mom, you were pretty darn good at some other things too.
- Make new friends, but keep the old. There is a reason one of those is silver, and the other’s gold. Keep in touch with former colleagues through social networking and if you are close enough, plan times to go out to eat or grab a cup of coffee. The “parent” friends that you make are wonderful and understand why play date times have to be flexible based on nap times. Keep fostering former working relationships too. Feel free to talk about your kids during these get-togethers, but get the scoop on your former work place as well. This is a great way to stay knowledgeable about the trends in your industry and gauge the marketplace for when you decided to return.
As a mom, there will be days that you feel like the farthest thing from a “professional” on any level. Most days, I feel like an amateur at everything. Keep your eye on the prize, though. You can’t put a price on the job of raising wee ones to be productive, intelligent and law-abiding citizens. You CAN do it and still maintain the individual pieces of “you” and your career, however. So maybe you can’t have it all – but you can come pretty close.
Katie Parsons is a part-time writer for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes in business news affecting major markets in the U.S. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She is also the administrator for a community blog for moms.